Illinois women’s track and field gear up for Drake Relays

The Illinois women’s track and field team will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend to compete in the Drake Relays. The event, known for being an extremely competitive and exclusive meet, will feature more than 50 teams from across the country.

Coming off a weekend in which some athletes competed while others rested, the whole team will head to Des Moines with one collective goal: to perform to the best of their ability. 

“We are coming into this meet with big shoes to fill,” head coach Ron Garner said. “We won this meet last year, and while we may not have a repeat performance, we are still expecting our girls to go out and compete at an extremely high level.”

After losing key members of last year’s squad to graduation, transfers and medical redshirts, the Illini will rely heavily on the athletes who have carried the team thus far this season.

One athlete who figures to lead the way for the Illini is Britten Petrey. Petrey has had lots of success during the outdoor season thus far. She is undefeated in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and just recently finished second in the 1,500 meter run this weekend at LSU, while shaving 20 seconds off her previous best time.

For Petrey, going against some of the best in the country is a challenge she embraces.

“I am very excited to be given the opportunity to race in the steeplechase with some of the best steeplers in the country,” Petrey said. “I am excited to see how I compete with them.”

The highly competitive Drake Relays will present opportunities for certain members of the team to gain some experience and post strong qualifying times for NCAA championships. 

One athlete in particular is junior distance runner Alyssa Schneider. Schneider, who did not run last weekend in order to rest up for Drake, believes stability has been a key to her early season success.

“I think a big thing for me is consistency,” Schneider said. “I have been able to stay generally injury-free and build up my training to where I want it to be.”

With several event titles in the 1,500 and 3,000 meter runs this season, Schneider has been a constant bright spot for the Orange and Blue.

High jumper Kandie Bloch-Jones and sprinter Ahlivia Spencer are two athletes who are also expected to shoulder the scoring burden for the Illini come Saturday. The meet will give these two defending conference champions their last taste of championship-level competition before Big Tens take place.

While Illinois is sure to have its hands full come Saturday, the team is confident and believes they are ready for the big stage.

“Our girls will be ready to go,” Garner said. “Everyone has had time to work on any necessary adjustments. Now it’s just time for us to go out there and compete.”

Mubarak can be reached at [email protected] or @justmubar.